From Sleep to Job Satisfaction, the Damaging Effects of the Most Stressful Commutes in the U.S.

commutes - hero image
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

For millions of Americans, a typical morning involves waking up early and hitting the road. Over the past few years, however, commutes have been getting longer, and there are more drivers in transit during peak hours, which means less sleep and a more stressful trip to work for American workers.

Recent studies underscore just how damaging a stressful commute can be. For example, a survey conducted by Robert Half found that nearly one-quarter of all workers have left a job due to a bad commute. Among young workers aged 18-34, that number is over one-third.

Similarly, in its The Commuting and Wellbeing Study, the University of the West of England found that longer commute times increase stress, decrease job satisfaction, and decrease leisure time satisfaction. Taken together, these factors lead to poor mental health and lower overall life satisfaction. The study found that the trends are worse for those who drive or take the bus to work than for those who commute by foot or bike.

While some commuters in the U.S. rely on public or alternative modes of transportation, the vast majority (85.3 percent) of workers commute by car. As of 2017, this translates to approximately 153 million commuters on the road—a number that has been on the rise.

INTRO_chart1

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017 the average commute time was 26.9 minutes each way (53.8 minutes total). In 2006, that number was only 25 minutes (50 minutes total), meaning that travel times have increased 7.6 percent in that time span. One contributing factor is that cost of living has outpaced wage growth in many metropolitan areas, leading to large groups of workers being priced out of neighborhoods close to their office.

As people move further away from city centers, there is a corresponding increase in the number of “super commuters,” defined as workers who work within the central part of a city but must commute a long distance from outside the boundaries of the metro area. In 2017, 8.9 percent of workers dedicated more than an hour to their one-way commute, an increase from 8.0 percent in 2009.

INTRO_chart2

In addition to commute times and traffic congestion, driver safety is another important factor to consider when assessing the quality of a person’s daily commute. According to Allstate’s America’s Best Drivers Report, the average American experiences a collision once every 10.57 years. However, this number varies significantly across locations, with residents in California cities like Los Angeles, Oakland, and San Francisco more likely to be involved in a crash.

“Property-damage crashes or fender benders are most common in congested urban areas,” said Russ Rader, Senior Vice President for Communications at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). However, fatal crash characteristics differ between urban and rural areas. Rader explained, “Fatal crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists are more prevalent in cities; whereas, a larger proportion of crashes involving deaths in passenger vehicles occur on high-speed roads in rural areas.”

Fortunately for daily commuters, fatal crashes are more likely at night, on weekends, and when people are driving on unfamiliar roads, according to IIHS. But commuters know it takes far less than a fatal collision to ruin a trip to or from work. Even the most minor fender bender can cause traffic jams, missed work, and added psychological stress.

“Human error is to blame for the vast majority of collisions, and that’s why it’s vital that we all do our part to eliminate distractions every time we hit the roads,” said Ken Rosen, Allstate’s Chief Claims Officer. “It’s also important to remember it’s not always technology that can be problematic–cognitive distractions, like thinking about your to-do list for work instead of dedicating 100 percent of your focus to the road, can be equally dangerous.”

Similar to distracted driving, drowsy driving—the dangerous combination of driving while sleepy or fatigued—is also a major concern when it comes to safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an astonishing 4 percent of adult drivers reported falling asleep while driving at least once in the previous 30 days. A study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 21 percent of fatal crashes involve a drowsy driver, which further highlights the dangers of driving tired. To prevent drowsy driving, the CDC recommends developing good sleep habits, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, and getting at least seven hours of sleep per night.


TRENDING ON SLEEP HELP

Our team of sleep experts spent thousands of hours finding the best mattress for you. Browse all of our top rated mattresses here.


 

With these trends in mind, researchers at Sleep Help wanted to find which cities in the U.S. have the most and least stressful commutes. To do this, Sleep Help created a composite score based on the following factors:

  • Average one-way commute time
  • Average annual days with precipitation
  • Relative collision likelihood
  • Percentage of workers who drive
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work

In general, the research found that cities in the Southwest—known for drier weather and shorter commute times—tend to have less stressful commutes. On the other hand, long travel times, congested roads, and/or frequent precipitation give cities on the East and West Coasts a more stressful commute.

Here are the most and least stressful cities for commuting.

Cities With the Most Stressful Commutes

Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Detroit, MI

  • Population: 673,103
  • Average one-way commute time: 25.4 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 135 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 22.9% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 83.0%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Worse than average
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Miramar, FL

  • Population: 140,323
  • Average one-way commute time: 31.0 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 145 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 18.8% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 83.9%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Paterson, NJ

  • Population: 148,678
  • Average one-way commute time: 24.3 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 123 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 33.8% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 84.7%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Worse than average
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Fremont, CA

  • Population: 234,954
  • Average one-way commute time: 34.9 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 65 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 40.9% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 83.0%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Worse than average
KHM6E1 Bellevue Washington. The snowy Alpine Lakes Wilderness mountain peaks rise behind the urban skyline.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Bellevue, WA

  • Population: 144,459
  • Average one-way commute time: 23.8 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 157 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 27.3% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 75.0%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
C4WR8N USA,Florida,Miami,Traffic jam on bridge. Image shot 05/2011. Exact date unknown.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Pembroke Pines, FL

  • Population: 170,703
  • Average one-way commute time: 31.8 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 122 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 16.2% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 94.9%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average

TRENDING ON SLEEP HELP

Finding the right mattress can be daunting. Luckily, our researchers found the best mattresses for a wide range of sleepers. Whether you are looking for the best mattress for back pain or the best mattress for side sleepers, Sleep Help has you covered.


 

J5KTJ3 Aerial view of Glendale California with downtown Los Angeles in background.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Glendale, CA

  • Population: 203,066
  • Average one-way commute time: 27.9 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 43 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 99.4% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 85.3%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Worse than average
GYFB3E Baltimore, Maryland, USA downtown skyline at twilight.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Baltimore, MD

  • Population: 611,648
  • Average one-way commute time: 31.6 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 116 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 151.7% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 67.3%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
MEH8YX Aerial View of Suburbs of San Jose California From Airplane
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. San Jose, CA

  • Population: 1,035,353
  • Average one-way commute time: 31.3 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 108 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 44.8% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 87.3%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
TRMM3H Tacoma, Washington, USA skyline at night.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Tacoma, WA

  • Population: 213,426
  • Average one-way commute time: 30.6 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 149 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 33.8% above average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 84.0%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average

Cities With the Least Stressful Commutes

M78R44 Main Street, Mesa Arizona
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. Mesa, AZ

  • Population: 496,395
  • Average one-way commute time: 24.7 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 35 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 8.9% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 77.3%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average

DID YOU KNOW?

The “best mattress” for one person might not be the right choice for someone else. This is because not everyone sleeps in the same position. If you sleep on your side, check out our best mattresses for side sleepers. If you suffer from an achy back, look through our best mattresses for back pain.


 

EHAJKN Aerial view of Arizona community homes in scottsdale, - desert andscape mountain
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. Scottsdale, AZ

  • Population: 249,947
  • Average one-way commute time: 22.8 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 30 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 8.9% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 88.4%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
MWRFTC Tucson, Arizona, USA downtown skyline with Sentinel Peak at dusk. (Mountaintop "A" for "Arizona")
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Tucson, AZ

  • Population: 535,676
  • Average one-way commute time: 22.3 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 51 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 1.2% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 87.8%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
JRRPKK Man made lake near Jacaranda parkway on Alma School road in Chandler, Arizona.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Chandler, AZ

  • Population: 253,448
  • Average one-way commute time: 24.8 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 28 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 5.6% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 89.7%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
M756DK Brownsville, Texas, USA - February 24, 2018, Grand International Parade is part of the Charro Days Fiesta - Fiestas Mexicanas, A bi-national festival
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Brownsville, TX

  • Population: 183,292
  • Average one-way commute time: 21.1 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 72 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 29.1% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 89.0%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
MDHAP5 Saguaro Cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) in Lost Dutchman State Park, with Superstition Mountain in the background, near Apache Junction
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Gilbert, AZ

  • Population: 242,362
  • Average one-way commute time: 28.3 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 30 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 1.2% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 94.6%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
C47H8C Wind turbine in Overland Park, Kansas
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Overland Park, KS

  • Population: 191,263
  • Average one-way commute time: 20.0 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 66 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 14.8% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 87.8%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
J1G0DW Aerial view of Reno, Nevada
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Reno, NV

  • Population: 248,860
  • Average one-way commute time: 20.4 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 51 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 6.5% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 84.2%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
T39619 palm trees over mcallen convention center
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. McAllen, TX

  • Population: 142,699
  • Average one-way commute time: 18.4 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 48 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 14.8% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 82.8%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average
JG0MKX Horsetooth Reservoir west of Fort Collins, Colorado. State of Colorado rural landscape on a summer day.
Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Fort Collins, CO

  • Population: 165,089
  • Average one-way commute time: 20.6 minutes
  • Average annual days with precipitation: 87 days
  • Relative collision likelihood: 16.1% below average
  • Percentage of workers who drive: 87.7%
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work: Average

Methodology & Full Results

To identify the cities with the most and least stressful commutes, a composite score was calculated based on the following metrics:

  • Average one-way commute time
  • Average annual days with precipitation
  • Relative collision likelihood
  • Percentage of workers who drive
  • Diversity of times that people leave for work

For all of the variables except the diversity variable, higher values correspond to more stress. For the diversity variable, a higher diversity of times that people leave for work creates a less stressful commute. As the diversity of times that people leave for work increases, the proportion of people commuting at any given time decreases.

All commuting statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau 2017 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates. Weather data is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Centers for Environmental Information. The number of rainy days corresponds to the mean number of days with precipitation of 0.01 inches or more. Accident rates are from the Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report 2019.

Need to improve your sleep? Read our in-depth, unbiased mattress reviews to find the perfect bed.

Table Of Contents